My short struggle with Shadowrun 5th Edition

SR5A while ago my players asked me if I could run Shadowrun for them. They love the Shadowrun world and the gameplay should be right up their alley. So we decided that after we finished the XCOM mini-campaign that I’ll run Shadowrun. Recently the 5th Edition was released and what I’ve seen so far looked pretty cool, so I ordered a copy of the game.

Oh boy, what have I done? While I totally love the look and production values of the book, the rules are just not my cup of tea. Reading the background sections was a joy, but as soon as they started talking about the rules my head started to spin. I have run Shadowrun 1st and 2nd Edition back in the day, and somehow I managed to cope with the game’s crunch back then, but the latest edition of this game seems to be even crunchier and more convoluted than earlier editions (at least the ones I know).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Shadowrun 5th Edition is a bad game. It just proved to me again, that there are some rule systems I just can’t handle. I have always been a player and GM who enjoys trying out new systems. But this also means that I just can’t put too much time and effort into a single system. And from what I’ve seen so far, a game like Shadowrun 5th Edition needs a lot of time and effort to be run properly.

So what I am going to do now? At first I’ll have another look at the 2nd Edition. Perhaps the fact that I’ll run the game in the 1990s will make the task of getting into the game again a bit easier. On the other hand I could just use a different system to run a Shadowrun game. Fudge comes to mind and I’ve already found a Shadowrun conversion for Savage Worlds. Alas HexNoir, the magic supplement for TechNoir hasn’t been released yet, since TechNoir looks like the perfect ruleset for the job, but Shadowrun is not Shadowrun without a healthy dose of fantasy.

My players already told me that they don’t mind what system I’ll use. They are more interested in the setting than the rules. So not all is lost!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

13 thoughts on “My short struggle with Shadowrun 5th Edition”

    1. Hmm, that looks sweet. I’ll might give it a try in the future, but at the moment I’m looking for a conversion to a system I am more familiar with.

  1. I understand your pain. I’ve run SR 2nd, 3rd, and 4th edition for years, but couldn’t bring myself to switch to 5th for the same reason.

    When releasing this edition they had a prime chance to streamline and reduce the amount of crunch in a meaningful and useful way. While unifying the mechanics for combat, matrix, and magic was great, adding in more rule for limits using attributes and gear was definitely a step in the wrong direction.

    I feel that Shadowrun is now a game that’s gotten too caught up in it’s own tradition, or the “evolution not revolution” design philosophy stated by the 5th edition design team. Which has really kept it from moving forward as a game.

    And as a result, I think that SR has lost me in the same way D&D 4E did.

    1. I’m actually not sure if I can bring myself to run any edition of Shadowrun anymore. The rules just feel terribly clunky to me nowadays. Perhaps keeping the setting and using a different system is the way to go for me.

  2. I’m going to be running Shadowrun in a few months, and the last edition was so bad I wasn’t even going to worry about the new edition. I’m using Spirit of the Century, which manages to capture a lot of the flavour without getting into the nitty-gritty of the gunplay, hacking, and magic mechanics.

    1. I’ve put the Shadowrun campaign on the back burner for the foreseeable future. But I might either give Shadowrun 5th Edition another chance or use the Cypher system from Monte Cook Games.

      1. Oh really?? I was thinking of using the Cypher system too! Never used it, but I’ve heard great things, and a brief scan of the rules looked promising. Might look further into that. I’m presently looking at Sixth World (The Dungeon Worlds SR hack), Savage Worlds, Fate or Cypher… too much damned choice! Was also considering trying to run 5e as written but veil some of the rules from the players because they are finding it waaaay too overwhelming. This would be ALOT of work for me though. Such a shame the core rules are so dense.

      2. I’m looking to convert Shadowrun 5e to the Cypher System myself. I am backing a Patreon Creator that is doing the same thing, but I’m getting tired of waiting. I’ll let you know what I come up with!

  3. i wonder if anyone ever did a complete storyteller conversion,
    has good magic rules, at about the same insane powerlevel, and a modded humanity would actually be a better fit for essence , since its supposed to make you less human

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